Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sepinwall on TV: 'True Blood' review

In today's column, I review HBO's new Alan Ball vampire drama, "True Blood." As you'll see from following the link, I wasn't that fond of it, and doubt I'll be blogging regularly on it. (Though I may put up some kind of open thread for it and "Entourage" -- which is somewhat improved, and which I'll be reviewing for Friday -- on Sunday night.)

21 comments:

TL said...

But the metaphors are more in the background than they've been for any of Ball's other works ....

If the Alan Ball show where the subtext has literally become the text is the one where the metaphors are in the background, that's saying something.

This is the best (unintentional?) dismissal of Alan Ball's work ever.

Nicole said...

When I noticed that you had comments to your column I thought the Moonlight nuts had returned, luckily it was not the case.

I saw an unfinished version on the 'net and it was not bad. It's more interesting than Moonlight and it lead me to read the first novel, which, if followed faithfully, will make the season watchable.

Nicole said...

I should add that it doesn't seem like an Alan Ball show, and that's a good thing. I was thoroughly turned off by his movie Nothing is Private/Towelhead and was never a fan of American Beauty. Six Feet Under had its moments, both good and supremely bad.

Dan said...

I didn't like the early-cut Pilot leaked onto the 'net in the summer, but I like the general set-up and a few moments got my interest. I'm hoping the Pilot proper will be an improvement and the season overall will become a kind of American Gothic with fangs. Looking forward to it.

Taleena said...

I hope the show is better than you make it out to be Alan because I love the books - a the best kind of mental cotton candy.

If I didn't mind Kevin Costner's lack of English accent in Robin Hood I doubt a bazillion wrong southern accents are going to throw me.

I am not a big vampire reader/watcher with the exception of this and Jim Butcher's Dresden stuff. I hope that Ball's heavy handedness eases as they get more into the series.

Kyle Wasko said...

Word re: that final montage in Six Feet Under. I still get chills every time I hear "Breathe Me."

JTR said...

Just off the top of my head, I can think of a half-dozen movies from 1999 that have held up better than "American Beauty."

I am curious what movies came to mind. I don't agree or disagree with you, but I found your quote funny because of how specific it was. I can name movies that have held up well over ten years (or more). I can probably name five or six movies from 1999 (sans-IMDB), but I am not sure those groups intersect enough for me to name any "off the top of my head".

So I am curious as to which movies sprang to mind.

And I hope that True Blood finds it's legs. I truly enjoyed the first couple of seasons of Six Feet under and would love to watch something comparable.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I am curious what movies came to mind.

Three Kings. Malkovich. Matrix. Toy Story 2. The Insider. Iron Giant. Sixth Sense. Office Space. Hell, I'd even put Fight Club ahead of American Beauty, because even though it's annoying in a lot of ways, the technique is amazing to watch, over and over.

1999 was one of the best movie years of my lifetime, and it's always annoyed me that this middlebrow rehash of the tired "Dysfunction in suburbia!" expose genre won Best Picture ahead of all of the above (and probably a few more if I really poke around the IMDb list of films from that year).

tc said...

Blockbuster had the first episode as a free rental last week, and I was fairly impressed; it was at least more entertaining -- to me anyway -- than John from Cincinatti, Tell Me You Love Me, and In Treatment.

As for the 1999 movie list, let me add: Election, Magnolia, and the Blair Witch. I usually add Rushmore to that list too; even though it came out in 1998, it didn't make it to local theaters here until February of '99.

LA said...

Kyle Waskow said exactly what I was going to say. Those are still my favorite 6 minutes in television.

JTR said...

Three Kings. Malkovich. Matrix. Toy Story 2. The Insider. Iron Giant. Sixth Sense. Office Space. Hell, I'd even put Fight Club ahead of American Beauty

Well, I agree that all those movies are better than American Beauty, but have they held up better? I think Matrix and The Sixth Sense aren't as impressive due to the movies that followed them (even though they are the best of their respective group).

Anyway, I am mostly bored at work and looking for anything to distract me. 1999 was definitely a great movie year.

drake leLane said...

I was surprised that it was as dark as it was. I was under the impression from all the Ball interviews that it was supposed to have a lighter touch than it did. I was expecting something akin to what Dexter does, adding a little sugar and cream to the dark and bitter brew, but outside of the flamboyant Lafeyette, there's not much comic relief in the two episodes I've seen.

So far I've seen a lot of HBO love going on here, between the product placements, and the ghosts of HBO shows past (The Wire - Frank Sobotka! - and Deadwood - E.B. Farnum!).

Kyle Wasko said...

Alan: any chance you'll be doing something for the blog on the RNC and the DNC? Be interested to get your thoughts on what's gone down so far...

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan: any chance you'll be doing something for the blog on the RNC and the DNC?

For the most part (reviews of David Simon shows excepted), I try to keep politics out of what I do. It's not that you can't have an interesting discussion of semiotics as relates to this campaign -- James Poniewozik's doing a bang-up job of that lately -- but that I don't think I'm the right guy to do it.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Well, I agree that all those movies are better than American Beauty, but have they held up better? I think Matrix and The Sixth Sense aren't as impressive due to the movies that followed them

I don't think the suckiness of the Matrix sequels or some (but not all) of M. Night's later films shouldn't take anything away from the originals. I still love watching The Matrix, even though I know some of the questions it raises (what if there are millions of people like Joey Pants who don't want to be unplugged?) will never be answered. And I still think The Sixth Sense is a great piece of filmmaking, even if M. Night kept ripping off various parts of it (with diminishing returns) in future movies.

Anonymous said...

True Blood, Moonlight...WHATEVER.

We had a perfectly good, sometimes great, vampire themed show-Angel. We should have kept it around instead of piddling around with these 2nd rate wannabes.

francoise52

Kyle Wasko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kyle Wasko said...

Fair enough.

Thanks for the link. I keep forgetting Poniewozik has a blog. His stuff in the mag is solid (except for his curious piece defending The Hills, which kinda felt like he wrote it at gunpoint...)

David J. Loehr said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you about American Beauty and 1999 as a movie year.

But I have to say, when it comes to Ball, I prefer American Beauty to Six Feet Under. It had a lot of potential and it did have its moments, but I never thought the episodes or the series ever jelled. To me, that series was the first crack in HBO's facade. (Tell Me You Have Some Kind of Feeling Roughly Equivalent to That Which Humans Call Love was the facade crumbling.)

As for the final episode, while the song "Breathe Me" was hauntingly beautiful, the idea of the montage was too easy. Was the series about Nate or the family? If it had faded out on their toast to Nate, it would have been fine. But all the montage did was bring up unfortunate comparisons to American Graffiti and Animal House for me, especially the shift in tone from the rest of that episode.

Even so, it might have worked for me if, in the very last moment, instead of mere photos on the wall, we could have seen the rest of the family appearing around the apparently blinded Claire for just a moment. Certainly the magical realism established in the first scene of the series would have allowed for that--why should Nate and his father be so special? That was what I was waiting for by the end of the montage, that something special to make the whole sequence worthwhile.

So no, I'm not looking forward to this new show. After Buffy and Angel, I'm vampire'd out.

Tracey said...

When you made the comment about someone comparing "Save Moonlight" to the civil rights movement, I simply had to dig up that post. Found it. Tsk, shame on you for calling them whiners. No, I wasn't one of the people trying to save the show -- for me it was a guilty pleasure before the writer's strike, but went downhill after -- but there have been other shows I've fought to keep, and I thought your dismissal was unkind.

The fans' reaction, however... man, somebody left the lid off the jar of crazy. First I came across the early one that talked about her right as an American to protest the cancellation, and I thought, well, that's not so bad, it's not fair to say she's comparing it to the civil rights movement... and then I got down to the post where somebody actually compared their protest to the civil rights movement... yikes.

So: if Star Trek fans are Trekkies, are Moonlight fans Moonies?

Tim Masterson said...

Whoa, way to recognize Toy Story 2, Alan. That's Pixar's best work and a truly great family film.